Bios that leap from success to success without pausing for breath. People as job titles. Endless lists of accolades. Gongs. Awards ceremonies and networking events.
Oh GOD. Networking events.
These things do something to me.
I forget stuff. Names. How to ask questions. The content of entire conversations. My attentiveness and confidence wander off someplace, hand in hand – leaving me alone with an exasperated, harping Inner Critic. Distracted. Fat-tongued. An Imposter Syndrome-riddled wreck.
This state arrives whenever I am Trying To Be Impressive. It arrives, too, when individuals are presented as archetypes. With listening to nothing-ever-went-wrong-edness. It arrives in the void left by missing admissions of rough-edges, dead-ends, failure. Honesty.
It arrives with witnessing someone tell another’s story – once-removed, sanitised, impressively sense-making stories. Stories devoid of complexity and paradox. Emotion. Humanity.
It arrives with attempted polishing. My own. Others.
And polishing makes me feel two things.
Very small, and very bored.
Recently I was asked to speak at an event. Speaking isn’t easy for me. But, reading that request, my YES-ness was immediate. Profound. So violent it left me in tears.
Because here, there would be no polishing.
Our speaker’s brief beat out: Real. Real. Honest. Vulnerable. Real.
That afternoon seven women stood one by one – heavy drapes of velvet behind them – and spoke the power of lived experiences into the half-light of the auditorium.
We shared our stories of mess – our fear and our hurt. Our stories of failure and brokenness. Our efforts to get back up once again.
We shared our stories of joy and connectedness and boldness and off-the-charts dork-tastic enthusiasm for life.
Seven women's stories of very real humanness.
It was wonderful. I left feeling nourished. Held. More than a little bit fierce. I left feeling I had experienced something remarkable.
It was an antidote to all those back-slapping, card-swapping, heavily retouched, successfests that fuel our disconnection. That hurt our wellness.
It was – just like its title promised – extraordinary.